Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:10pm
Below is an excerpt from a column published by the New Jersey Jewish News on Jan. 30, 2013. Read the full column there.
By Gary O. AidekmanImmediate past president, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ
Two weeks ago I was among a group of eight lay leaders participating in a Jewish Federations of North America mission to Ethiopia. We observed the operations of our partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and visited historic sites of the Beta Israel community in the Gondar region. I experienced many meaningful moments and heard many powerful stories. I’d like to share one.
The walk took about 20 minutes, the silence continuing all along the way. The faces of the olim were neither happy nor sad, just serious. This was an exodus march and the olim understood the awe of the moment.
Asher Seyum, an Israeli consul and Jewish Agency director of operations, led the procession. Some 30 years ago, as a young teen, Asher undertook a more difficult exodus march. He and members of his family walked some 500 miles from Gondar to Sudan on their journey to reach Zion. They traveled at night and hid by day. After three weeks, when they made it to Sudan, they were thrown into detention camps. Many were beaten and many became ill. At least 2,000 Ethiopian Jews died in those camps. Fortunately, the government of Israel, with the help of North American Jewry, rescued these Jews as part of Operation Moses.
About 100 yards from the bus, Asher began to sing “Am Yisrael Chai” — the people of Israel live. The olim joined in and so did we. At that moment it was clear that the people of Israel live, truly one people united, caring and responsible for each other, and strong together. Am Yisrael chai!
Gary Aidekman is the immediate past president of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Helping Ethiopians complete their journey (NJ Jewish News)
JFNA Briefing: Jewish Federations Rally to Complete Ethiopian-Jewish Aliyah